AmeriGlide hits the streets
RALEIGH, N.C. – AmeriGlide’s online sales are going just fine, thank you, but there are only so many people who will buy lifts via the Internet, says Tim Ziehwein.
Ziehwein is a vice president at AmeriGlide, a company that manufactures lifts and, until one year ago, sold them exclusively online. Now AmeriGlide offers a distributor program (similar to a franchise program without the fees) that gives the company a physical presence and allows HME providers to tap into a $300 million home accessibility market, he says.
“What we’re really looking for are businesses that are successful now doing DME and oxygen, but they’re not doing lifts,” Ziehwein said. “We’re the perfect match.”
As part of the distributor program, AmeriGlide will, among other things, provide a customized website, after-hours sales support, an exclusive territory, and marketing guidance. Providers must have, among other things, an appropriate show room and storage space, and meet certain sales goals.
AmeriGlide decided to expand beyond the Internet because, based on its research, only 15% of accessibility products are bought online, Ziehwein says.
“There are still 85% of sales being done by brick-and-mortars,” he said. “These are the people who want to see and touch products. They also want a local company to install it and, if there’s a service issue, fix it.”
The first distributor, AmeriGlide of Lexington, was profitable in its first month, says owner Lindsay Sheffer. Her father happens to be the founder and CEO of AmeriGlide, but that didn’t mean she got preferential treatment. After seven years of installing lifts as a side job, Sheffer opened the branch in August of 2012. The key to success, she says: focusing on the local community and providing top-notch customer service.
“When something happens to you and you need this equipment, you need it yesterday,” Sheffer said. “I tell everyone they can reach me from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. I’ve had people call me at 9:30 on a Friday night to test me. Happy customers are the best advertisement you can get.”
AmeriGlide of Lexington is one of 24 distributors that AmeriGlide has set up in the first year of the program, with an overall goal of 200, Ziehwein says.
“They see that it’s a giant market and that we have a good reputation for our products,” he says.